The War That Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War by Fred Anderson

Professor Anderson is the author of Crucible of War, a 900-page history of the Seven Years War and its effect on North America. This is a shorter version of the same history. It’s not a great book, but it tells an interesting story.

Like most Americans, I know very little about the Seven Years War. For example, I didn’t realize that: the French and Indian War that occurred in North America between 1755 and 1763 was one part of the Seven Years War, which is considered to be the first “world war”; an inexperienced George Washington, leading a troop of soldiers as a representative of England, tried to remove the French from the area now known as Pittsburgh, and this failed attempt was the spark that set off the global Seven Years War; various Indian nations engaged in complex diplomatic relations with both the English and the French, and Indian warriors were crucial  participants on both sides of the war; The Last of the Mohicans was based on a battle and subsequent massacre that occurred near Lake George in upstate New York; the battles fought in America and Canada often involved thousands of troops and sometimes fleets of warships; in 1763 the victorious English formally declared all of the territory between the Appalachians and the Mississippi to be, in the words of one cartographer, “Lands Reserved For The Indians” (we know how that worked out).

According to Anderson, the French and Indian War had two major effects: revolution and westward expansion. The victorious English concluded that they could “exercise power over the colonists without restraint”, while the colonists, having participated in the victory as loyal Englishmen, concluded that they were “equal partners in the empire”. These conflicting views helped set the stage for the American revolution a decade later. And, with the disappearance of the French, the Indians lost an important counterbalance to the English, in particular, access to French-supplied guns and ammunition. The colonists wanted more land and the Indians lacked the power to resist.

Hence, Anderson’s subtitle: “the war that made America”.  (8/2/11)